It's nearly 80-degrees here in Oakland on a Friday night ~ nearly midnight ~ and I am sitting with the balcony doors open, smitten by the silky light streaming in from the nearly-full-moon, relishing the amazing weather and the laughter from the small party two buildings over ~ a few of the guys over there, I can see them through my kitchen window and across my neighbor's rooftop as I sit here writing this, they are playing guitars, and singing "El Cuarto de Tula," one of my favorite songs, a Cuban son ~ the version by Cuarteto Patria is my favorite, off their CD "A Una Coqueta" ~ the song is a usually played as a descarga (Cuban jam style) and the neighbors are really hitting it ~ it's soothing ~....
I'm still up because my friend E. and I went to see "Garden State" tonight, the film written and directed by Zach Braff. Ai, I can't say too much or I will spoil the movie for you but YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE NOW. Braff is brilliant, sublime ~ and Natalie Portman is divine, complex, lovely, and strong. In the film, Zach's character, Andrew Largeman (who is on all sorts of medication prescribed by his psychiatrist), has been numb to his life, not having experienced any emotions that he should have ~ then he travels back to New Jersey for his mother's funeral, and he discovers his own reawakening and rebirth. There is this scene early on in the film, just after he meets "Sam," played by Natalie Portman, where she asks him how he would even know if she were lying about something ~ and he says something like, "Well, I would just choose to trust you," and she asks, "you can do that?"
Can you? Can you simply choose to trust someone or something, or, gulp, yourself, your intuition? I have a friend who told me once that every morning she woke up and chose to love her husband ~ he might make her angry, or she might feel like she hated him during an argument, but ultimately she knew that she had made a conscious decision to love him, that day and every day, and she trusted in that. ~~~ Me, I have had a love-hate relationship with Trust ~ she has kicked my ass a few times, Trust. Yet she calls me back ~~ like the sirens sunning themselves on the rocks in that sea of your insecurity, singing that song you know the lyrics to, the song you can't get out of your head ~ Trust sings its dangerously sweet melody to me, and invites me to believe in her again ~ to risk crashing into those rocks again, to risk swallowing more than pride, to tread water in a pool of possibility.
And that line in the movie screamed out at me, despite the subtlety onscreen. The way Andrew stated, pointed blank, that he would simply do something he chose to do ~ and Sam's disbelief that such a thing is possible ~ how can you control something like that? I had a friend once who would tell me that he wanted to stop doing a particular bad habit he had, but he just didn't know how ~ and my response always was, "well, don't" ~ that simple, "don't do what you don't want to do" ~ and it's tough for me to really believe in that statement if I can't believe in the inverse relationship, to wit, "just do it" ~ just do something you want to do ~~ like Trust.
We walked out of the theater, my mind still stuck on that scene ~ but really the entire movie was amazing ~ the soundtrack especially, damn, go get the soundtrack. And we strolled down Piedmont Avenue, enjoying the sight of so many people out on the streets, the crowds spilling out of Fenton's ~ having ice cream and wearing shorts for Pete's Sake, which you know is a rarity in Northern California. We wanted a drink so we stumbled upon Dopo, a charming, tiny Italian bistro on Piedmont. It was crowded ~ there was no way we were going to get a table. We bumped into some friends, and I loved the provincial feeling ~ of strolling through your neighborhood, a small town, seeing friends at the local eatery, enjoying a warm summer evening ~ the Bay Area has these wonderful pockets of this small-town feeling. I asked one of the owners, Adam, if we could sneak a coupla chairs out on the sidewalk for us to just enjoy a glass of his 2001 Barbera ~ and he indulged our whim with a smile. Dopo has been open almost a year and it seems to be doing great ~ every table was taken, and the people waiting were glad to do so out on the sidewalk with Adam, who chatted and laughed with everyone, all the while keeping an eye on the diners inside. We sat and talked for over an hour, and Adam charged us only $10 for two glasses of wine; we left a $5 tip and promised to see him again soon for a full dinner.
And now, the neighbors are still singing ~ and the moon is still shining ~ and those sultry sirens are still calling out to me. This time, though, I think I know where the dangerous rocks lie, and I think I can navigate that labyrinth Trust hides in......
Go see "Garden State". Braff has a blog about the movie, and the other stuff he is doing ~ check out yesterday's post, where he talks about what "Garden State" is really about:
What Garden State's really about is how short life is. And how we get caught up in so many entanglements and insecurities and worries and obsessions and trivial arguments while life races right by us shaking it's head at how seriously we take ourselves. Keep in mind that the sun's gonna burn out in about a million years and truly nothing will have mattered.
Braff's blog posting was eerie because he says the movie is best summed up in two amazing ways: (1) The Colin Hay song, "Waiting For My Real Life to Begin," and (2) the T.S. Eliot poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". When I was 18, I met a boy ~ a little older than me in age but light years ahead of me in life. And on our first date he told me that my beauty left him feeling like a patient anesthetized on a table ~ unable to move, in a dream-like state I suppose, unable to utter something he wanted to tell me ~ and then he recited part of that poem for me ~ and I had no idea then how often the poem's theme would confront me throughout my adult life, in the form of the men ~ all the Prufrocks ~ who would pass through my life:
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.
If you've studied T.S. Eliot, and Prufrock in particular, you see the angst that spiritually-exhausted people face when dealing with the impersonal, modern world ~~ they cannot reconcile their "rational thoughts" and "intellectual perception" with their feelings, emotions, and will. Prufrock is walking to meet a woman for tea and he is considering a question he feels compelled to ask her ~ either to marry him or simply be with him. But he never arrives at the tea, let along sing his song ~ his request ~ to the woman. You see, along the way, Prufrock becomes obsessed with his social insecurity, consumed with the question and with whether he deserves a "yes" from the woman, and self-absorbed in his own introspection, so much so that nothing external will ever happen. Prufrock is vain and weak, as he examines his sterile life but lacks the will to change that life ~~ hence the poem's images of social paralysis and personal debilitation, embodied in the etherized patient. Prufrock knows he lacks authenticity and he wants to shake himself out of his meaningless life, but to do that, well, he would have to Trust in Himself and in Truth and in Life and in Others, and would have to risk disturbing his "universe" ~ he would have to rewrite the fiction he is living out, without really living.
This reminds me of a snow globe ~ I want to shake it up, mess it up, watch the snow fall, giggle at the chaotic silliness of it all, and Trust that it's better to disturb the scene than let it sit there, sterile in its paralyzed beauty.
The neighbors are singing, "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" ~ really, I don't make this stuff up. Truth is better than fiction.